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Special Feature: Can Olaf Really ROCK? Inside the Rigging of Disney’s FROZEN… #FrozenBluray

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For most, the art of “rigging” is something unfamiliar, a term that may bring to mind other professions like those in the maritime or theatrical fields. In reality, they’re all connected, but instead of using physical ropes and cables, animation riggers use programs like Maya as tools of their trade. “Without rigging, our characters are really nothing more than digital sculptures,” explained Frank Hanner, the Character CG Supervisor on Disney’s FROZEN, while speaking to a group of writers on a recent visit to Walt Disney Animation Studios. “It really is the Rigger’s job to bring them to life, and they do that by building skeletons of the characters, and finding a way to attach muscles and skin. Finally, they build a set of animation controls that allow the animators to push and pull the characters around.” Hmmm, but are they sure that it was wise to hand the keys (a mouse and keyboard, to be specific) to THE ROCK FATHER? If you ever wondered if that lovable snowman Olaf could ROCK, I just might have the answer.

Hanner, along with Keith Wilson (Character TD Supervisor) and Gregory Smith (Rigging Supervisor) have their presentation locked-down, having explained their craft to numerous groups of writers, bloggers and journalists in the months leading up to FROZEN’s theatrical release, and again, now, as the home video release looms in the distance.

Bonus Feature: Check out THE ROCK FATHER conversation with FROZEN’s Peter Del Vecho, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, here.

To make FROZEN wasn’t just about evolving THE SNOW QUEEN into something fresh and modern, but to move beyond what tools were currently available in the tech department, having to create new software like Spaces, Tonic, and Matterhorn to assist in telling the story in a visual realm. 

Rigging: FROZEN by the numbers...By the Numbers, FROZEN had:
  • 312 Character Rigs to populate the Kingdom of Arendelle
  • 245 Cloth rigs, or 245 simulated costumes, more than double the amount of all of their previous films combined.
  • 63 hair rigs, of which Tonic was developed to aid in styling and grooming.
  • 400,000+: The number of individual hairs on Queen Elsa’s head, an astonishing number when compared to 25,000+ on Rapunzel for TANGLED.

And in terms of those cloth rigs, the level of detail went well beyond the prior norm for a film of this scale, carefully rendering each piece of clothing, along with varying layers of fabric and accents…

Detail of FROZEN...

Now, the team in the FROZEN Rigging Lab decided to let a few folks like myself run wild with Olaf for a bit, playing with his expressions, his shape… the basics. Although the little guy only has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, being “The Rock Father,” I had to see if I could get him to “throw up the horns.”

Mission accomplished:


And some video evidence:


FROZEN is available now on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere. It will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD on March 18th.

Pre-Order FROZEN and other Disney titles via (my affiliate) Amazon:



Thanks to The Walt Disney Company for inviting me to visit on Mickey’s dime. Look for more coverage of FROZEN, THE PIRATE FAIRY, and SAVING MR. BANKS, right here on THE ROCK FATHER in the weeks ahead!



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